Why Wes Anderson Rides Amtrak

Wes AndersonDirector Wes Anderson is known for his unique perspective and signature aesthetic in the films he creates, including The Grand Budapest Hotel, now out in theaters. What few know, however, is that when not behind a camera that perspective is often out the window of a train.

“Each trip is its own adventure, and I’m always looking forward to the next one,” Anderson tells Amtrak’s blog, calling train travelers “people and scenery watchers.”

While promoting The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson traveled coast to coast by train—even conducting this interview straight from the rails.

“One thing you almost always get on a train is time to burn,” he says. “But it’s especially nice to have that time while you are on the move. It can so often be the best combination of peaceful and exciting.”

Of Amtrak’s 500 nationwide destinations, Wes says he’s most interested in New Orleans, which can be accessed along Amtrak’s City of New Orleans, Sunset Limited and Crescent routes.

Southwest Chief Meal

“It’s one thing to be stuck together for the long haul to New Zealand in the upper deck of a 747 for 16 hours, but it’s an altogether different matter to hit the dining car three meals a day for two and a half days running onboard the
Southwest Chief
,” he says, comparing the perks of train travel to the experience on airplanes. “It’s a calm, friendly, leisurely, and extremely protracted type of experience.”

That leisurely experience has also served well for Anderson’s creativity. A few years ago, he was able to create “a pretty serviceable first draft” of a movie script with two friends while traveling by train. “We even brought a printer with us, but unfortunately I fried it by plugging it into a razor’s-only electric socket,” he confesses.

Anderson’s interest in train travel leaped from the creative process to the big screen with his 2007 movie The Darjeeling Limited, which follows three brothers traveling by train through a literal journey of self-exploration. His current film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is being heralded by critics as one of his most beautiful creations yet with a focus on an Old World way of life—making it no surprise the romanticism of rail travel appeals to the director.

Writers seeking similar inspiration and adventure will be happy to learn there are 15 long-distance routes across the U.S. allowing for hours of uninterrupted daydreaming and collaboration. The campaign #AmtrakResidency also offers 24 creative individuals trips on select routes, where the great American landscape is the muse for artistic works big and small.

“I don’t really find that my travels become typical at all,” Anderson says.